It’s called “The Ultimate Veggie Burger” for a reason, and it’s not just for vegetarians. It’s for anyone who loves a great veggie burger every once in a while, my husband included. Melissa Clark’s recipe for “The Ultimate Veggie Burger” was published in the New York Times a few years ago and I’m thankful to have found it. Bon Appétit has since listed something very similar in their “Best Recipes,” and deservingly so.
This is sure to please almost anyone willing to try this burger alternative. It is, I will warm, an involved recipe. Not hard, but there is a lengthy ingredient list that may at first glance create panic. But I have adapted it using a few shortcuts, making it more manageable. In fact, everything needed for this recipe I purchased at Trader Joe’s. So don’t be too fearful. It’s worth trying.
Veggie burgers themselves are not an easy thing to make well. There are numerous recipes out there and tons of store-bought verities. None are great options, if you ask me. And I’ve tried a bunch. Getting the texture and flavor balance correct is tricky; it’s actually a bit of a science.
This recipe works hard to combat the various issues with veggie burgers in general. Mushrooms, cooked properly to reduce moisture, help with the mushy factor commonly seen in veggie burgers. Black beans help create a crisp outer texture, allowing these burgers to be seared. Clark calls for “aggressive seasoning” to combat the blandness factor, and she nailed it. She omits the need for unusual proteins with frightening names that typically steer people away from ordering these types of burgers on restaurant menus. Instead, you find a well balanced burger with a nice combination of nuts, vegetables, and grains, which allows for the hearty, satisfying aspect most people desire when eating a burger in the first place. In terms of preparation, you can pan sear or grill them, giving you further options.
Add a lightly toasted brioche bun, some avocados, onion slices and sprouts and you have a great healthier alternative to the all-American burger.
Note: Due to the somewhat complex process, I tend to double the batch when I make these and freeze them for future use. They hold up well in the freezer without losing flavor.
The Ultimate Veggie Burger
- 4 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained
- Extra virgin olive oil as needed
- 1/2 pound Cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced (use a pre-sliced bag of mushrooms)
- 3/4 teaspoon salt, more as needed to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black better
- 1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained
- 3/4 cup red beet (use the precooked ones in the vegetable section), coarsely grated
- 3/4 cup cashews
- 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup Cotija cheese, crumbled
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
- 4 ounces tempeh, crumbled
- 1/2 cup cooked brown rice (use organic precooked brown rice in the freezer section)
- Step 1 Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Step 2 Slice tofu into 1/4-inch-thick slabs and dry on a paper towel. Arrange tofu on one half of a prepared baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush with oil. On the other half of the baking sheet, spread the mushrooms out and lightly toss with 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Step 3 On a second lined baking sheet, toss the kidney beans and grated beets with 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt and pepper and then spread the mixture into one layer.
- Step 4 Transfer both baking sheets to the oven. Roast bean-beet mixture, tossing occasionally, until beans begin to split and beets are tender and golden, about 15 minutes. Roast mushrooms and tofu until golden and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 25 minutes. Set aside and let cool.
- Step 5 Place the cashews in a food processor, such as a Cuisinart fitted with a metal blade, and pulse until coarsely ground.
- Step 6 When the bean-beet mixture has cooled, add it to the food processor. Also add the mushrooms, tofu, panko, cheese, eggs, mayonnaise, scallion, garlic, paprika and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Pulse until ingredients are incorporated, do not over-pulse.
- Step 7 Add the tempeh and the rice, pulse to incorporate 3-4 more times. Note, you want small chunks, not a smooth mixture.
- Step 8 Scrape mixture into a bowl and chill at least 2 hours to help firm. At this point you can make into patties and you can freeze for future use.
- Step 9 When you are ready to make the burgers, divide mixture into 6 equal portions and form each portion into a patty about 1 inch thick. Note, the burgers should be refrigerated until you are ready to cook. (The burgers tend to grill better when they start out cold).
- Step 10 Heat the grill. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the burgers with oil to prevent sticking. Cook the burgers over a low flame until they are charred on both sides and firm when you press on them, 4 to 6 minutes per side. If they start to burn before they firm up, move them to the sides of the grill to finish cooking over indirect heat. Alternatively, you can cook these on a grill pan or in a skillet over low heat.
- Step 11 Serve hot with your favorite toppings and condiments.